It’s a rainy spring morning here in Melbourne, Australia. The sky is a pale, glary grey mass of sheer clouds looming over the still trees. Bright red blossoms have appeared on the gum trees on our street, and the rainbow lorikeets are chattering happily as they feed on the flowers. A mass of daffodils are blooming in our front garden, in white, yellow and orange hues. They move a little in the gentle breeze. The cats are howling in their outdoor cat run. They begged all morning to go outside and now, having been granted their wish, are begging to come straight back indoors. (more…)
It’s already November 2 here in Melbourne, Australia, which means it’s day 2 of NaNoWriMo. Here’s a little recap on how Day 1 panned out.
Day 1 coincided with a public holiday, the Melbourne Cup (a two-mile / 3200 m Thoroughbred horse race held on the first Tuesday of November every year since 1861) but since I started learning about the animal welfare issues surrounding racing in Australia I don’t really follow it anymore. I used to be obsessed with horse racing, but these days my conscience nags at me to the extent I laid it aside. Instead, we took the opportunity to finally get around to watching the Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix – and wow, what a dramatic race that was!
As I try to reflect on the whirlwind of events in my life over the last few weeks, it has been, in a word, chaotic; and disappointingly not what I had planned when I envisaged August 2016. (more…)
Memories. Circa 1989. Aged somewhere between 8 and 10. South-east Victoria, Australia.
It was December. Warm summer afternoon sunlight shone down on the backyard. When I was a child, that yard seemed so large and so magical. The hydrangea by the verandah shaded a soft living carpet of baby’s tears plants and moss. There were trees: frangipani, with its bursts of flowers and wattle birds hopping between its branches; a young silver birch with long draping branches; and the apple tree. A winding path led from the verandah steps to the back gate that opened out onto a gravel laneway. Other children lived on the laneway, and we built a cubby house from branches and bark under the tall old eucalypts behind the back fence. Magpies sang among the gum branches, and blackbirds sang from the top of the fence. From a particular vantage point on the verandah I could see my grandparents’ house, a few streets away. It seemed like such an enormous distance and a vast view. Between their house and mine was a large playground, swampy paddocks with herds of beef cattle, and houses. Funny how in a small town it’s still possible to not know everyone.
I lay on the trampoline. One of those big rectangular ones with exposed springs and none of the safety nets that my own children now take for granted. I could hear the neighbours’ family playing cricket. They must have been visiting for Christmas. Every so often a tennis ball would ricochet off the rubbish bin stumps and come sailing over the fence. At least it was tennis balls and not lemons, I guess. I begrudgingly threw it back, becoming increasingly infuriated by the interruption to my meditations. I was trying to recapture a moment. An earlier memory from when I was maybe six or seven. That had happened while lying in the same spot – though perhaps on the grass. It was probably in the days pre-trampoline. There was a small swing set there, too.
I had this overwhelming sense that in this spot I had once connected with God. It is the earliest spiritual memory I still have. There are glimpses, going a long way back, of church and religious school, but this one stands as a very sharp, defined moment in my earliest recollections. And so I sensed Him – It, Her, They, I didn’t presume to know – in the vast masses of cumulus solemnly sailing through the shockingly blue sky. It was my own personal Jacob’s ladder. A mystical sense that there was, almost certainly, a link between my small mortal frame and the vastness of this life force or spirit that I personified as the God I had learned about in Mass. Nowadays I would describe it as a Thin Place, where the veil between the worlds was permeable. I could peer into a realm where Time itself had no meaning. There were angels there, too, classical, beautiful and masculine beings like those in the old Catholic artworks.
When I was ten we moved out of that house. We were still in the same town – I even took the same school bus, just took it from a different stop, and for years thereafter the driver waved hello whenever he saw me – but moving to the other edge of the town felt like half a world away. My cats were buried there. The trees full of song birds were there. The kids I knew were just a back gate and stroll down the lane away. My first Thin Place was there. It had been my great-grandparents’ house and while I never knew them, traces of their lives and legacy were strewn throughout that home. Gone was the pastel pink wallpaper I’d excitedly helped choose when my parents renovated the house. The plants we grew: poppies along the northern wall of the house, veggies right down the back, the nasturtiums with their population of cabbage moth caterpillars, the sprawling passionfruit vine, and the gums along the lane framing the view to the swampy farmland in the valley. I couldn’t look out of the front window anymore to see the horses lined up at the recreation reserve before the annual agricultural show’s equestrian competitions, nor hear the masked lapwings circling angrily when the weekly tennis club disturbed their nests. I couldn’t see my grandparents’ house from the verandah anymore, and in the new house the view between us was obscured by the hills. (I was later surprised to discover that I could see our new house peering through the chicken wire fence at the edge of my primary school oval.) I was devastated in ways my limited language was unable to express. I came down with a nasty flu shortly thereafter, and I do think that time marked the beginning of my depression. But no ten year old can likely say, in a coherent and self-reflective fashion, “I’m really struggling with the grief of this major transition in my life, to the extent it’s clouding my ability to manage my internal thought world.” It would be twenty years before I finally got help.
And I did eventually find other Thin Places. Looking out over my other grandparents’ farm, alone, rain beating my face and wind soughing through the tops of the cypresses. The beach. The bush. Anywhere with flowing water. Silent moments in church, and sometimes, moments when the flickering candle light reflecting off the stained glass windows and the voices of the faithful singing soared and though they were raw and imperfect and sometimes seemed lost in the hugeness of the sanctuary, it was as though they rose to heaven like incense. But nothing ever again quite broke through the veils between the worlds the way that had happened lying there under the vast expanse of clouds in the yard that then seemed like a world unto itself.
I am currently decluttering my RedBubble Portfolio, to make way for more recent art that best represents who I am now, as well as to make it easier for customers to navigate the available products for sale. As a result I will be sharing some of my old creative writings here on WordPress, as a way of preserving them. In several cases my mind, opinions, beliefs, values and overall understanding of life have changed since the time I wrote these pieces, but I still feel that they are personally valuable reminders of the various stages of my life journey thus far.
I have noted the amount of views that the original post received on RedBubble prior to deleting it from my portfolio there. Just for my own interest’s sake.
This piece of writing was first posted at my RedBubble Creative Writing Portfolio.
Date of original post: January 2010
Total views, at 2 May 2016: 449
Lover and monster.
My desire to read the soul.
What words exist within the frame I see before me?
I would rip you open if I could.
Monstrous longing to know, truly know, who resides within.
These mortal vehicles are walls between our spirits.
We decorate ourselves in empty fabrics and gold and paints.
We position these bodies as statues.
Polishing the surfaces.
Cleaning the stains.
So that we can pretend?
We know that we are more than this.
We congratulate ourselves on upholding the delusions.
We cut ourselves in pieces. We tell ourselves vile fantasies.
I do not want these lies.
I will peer into the soul that fearfully cowers behind your eyes.
I will read the words written on your heart.
I will try to see you as the Creator sees you.
Frail, broken and damaged. Alive, beautiful, and eternal.